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Canadiens-Rangers Preview @NHLdotcom

Both the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers benefited from solid goaltending in their most recent contests.

Considering the teams' last few series meetings have been high-scoring affairs, it's likely each could use a solid performance in net on Wednesday night, when the Canadiens seek their third straight victory over the Rangers but their first in five visits to Madison Square Garden.

These Original Six clubs have met nine times since the start of 2006-07, with the winner scoring at least three goals.

New York (24-14-3) holds a 6-2-1 edge in that span, though Montreal (22-10-6) has won the last two matchups - both at home - following up a 6-5 shootout last Feb. 19 with a 6-2 victory on Dec. 4.

The teams are currently separated by one point in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are battling with Philadelphia for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, while the Canadiens are second in the Northeast behind East-leading Boston.

Montreal enters having won four of its last five games. Backup Jaroslav Halak was pulled after allowing three goals on 22 shots in losing at New Jersey on Friday, but regrouped by stopping all three shootout attempts he faced in a 6-5 home victory over Florida on Sunday.

Halak had 30 saves in regulation and overtime, while Andrei Kostitsyn had two goals before Andrei Markov scored the lone tally in the tiebreaker for the Canadiens, who have collected points in seven of their last eight games (6-1-1).

In that span, Halak has won three of his four starts despite a 3.40 goals-against average. He's expected to make his third straight start with goalie Carey Price - one of four Canadiens voted by fans to start the All-Star Game in Montreal later this month - sidelined by an undisclosed lower-body injury.

"At this time, we need (Halak) to be sharp," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "We were able to get two points for him, which I think earlier in the season, when he was playing well, we were not able to get, but in the situation that he's in right now he needs to be a little sharper."

Halak is 1-2-0 with a 3.35 GAA in four career starts against the Rangers. Both losses came at Madison Square Garden, where the Canadiens are 0-3-1 after winning six in a row from Oct. 11, 2002-Oct. 31, 2005.

New York has outscored Montreal 15-5 in those four victories, including a 4-1 win most recently on Jan. 12, 2008.

This season, the Rangers are 14-7-2 on home ice, and Henrik Lundqvist has started all but one of those 23 games, compiling a 2.38 GAA and a .915 save percentage.

He picked up his 20th victory of the season by making 27 saves Monday night for his first shutout of 2008-09 and the 18th of his career, 4-0 against reeling Pittsburgh. Lundqvist, who sat out Saturday's loss at Washington with an illness, led the league with 10 shutouts last season.

"If it wasn't for him we might have been looking at a different game," left wing Nigel Dawes, one of four players who finished with a goal and an assist Monday, told the Rangers' official Web site.

Lundqvist, third in the league in wins, is the fifth NHL goalie to start his career with four 20-win seasons. He could add to that total, as he is 7-3-1 with a 2.76 GAA in 12 career starts versus the Canadiens, including 4-1-0 with a 1.60 GAA and a .930 save percentage in five home outings.

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